In my bag this week No. 10: Fujica ST605N and Polaroid 669

Fujica ST605N front
The Fujica ST605N with a 55mm f/2.2 Fujinon kit lens, sitting on my favorite Woolrich sweater. The depth-of-field preview button next to the lens also activates the light meter. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Seems it never rains in southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl don’t they warn ya
It pours, man it pours

Albert Hammond, “It Never Rains in California”

When it rains it does, indeed, pour.

I started the “In my bag this week” series to encourage myself to do more — to post more regularly (and therefore more frequently) on the blog, and to start testing out more of the many cameras that have been in limbo for a while.

It worked! I’ve posted at least once nearly every week this year, and two or three times quite a few of those weeks. And it shows: my site’s traffic is up considerably compared to six months ago. The new look is much more mobile-friendly, and Google may have taken notice of that and juiced my rankings a little. And maybe more people are just finding it easier or more interesting to read. If so, thanks!

But you came to read about the Fujica ST605N, not my web traffic. And speaking of being in limbo, this one has been.

Fujica ST605N

The Fujica has been on my shelf at least a couple years. I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to buy it, either. I know it came from a thrift store, though I have no idea which one or what I paid (almost certainly under $20).

Thing is, though I’ve recently written about a number of 35mm SLRs, such as the Olympus OM-G and the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP1000, they aren’t really the kind of thing I like to collect. SLRs generally aren’t that old, and they became so prevalent in the 1970s that most tend to blend together into a glob of good-enough-to-drive-sales uniformity. Moreover, I’ve got two Nikon FM2ns, a Nikon F2 and a Nikon F3 — I will never want for a better 35mm SLR.

Fujica ST605N viewfinder
Looking through the viewfinder of the Fujica ST605N. Note the small, thin match needle, which can be hard to see clearly in low light. (Daniel J. Schneider)

That said, I had a great time shooting the Spotmatic due to its simplicity and good design. After a number of rangefinders and meterless zone-focus cameras and such, it was a good change of pace. And I’ve had a good time shooting the Fujica, especially after trying out the OM-G.

The Fujica ST605N is pretty standard all around. Bigger than a Pentax ME/MX or Minolta XD, it’s still much smaller than its Nikon and Canon rivals (are they really rivals?). It’s similar in size to the Olympus OM-G or Spotmatic, actually.

I imagine that, thirty years ago, you bought the Fujica because you couldn’t hope to afford the Nikon or Canon, and maybe not even an Olympus or Minolta, but you knew better than to buy a Ricoh or something department-store branded. It was less than half the price of an FM2 with a lens, and a quarter the price of an F2, when it was introduced in 1977 for $240 (about $930 in 2015 money).

It sports a rubberized silk focal plane shutter, uses M42 (Praktica/Pentax) screw-mount lenses and has a self-timer.

Fujica ST605N shutter speed dial
The shutter speed dial of the Fujica ST605N with its confusing 1/700 sec. top speed. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The light meter uses two easy-to-obtain SR44 batteries and displays a match needle in the viewfinder. Said viewfinder is decidedly dark, at least on mine, and the thin needle can be hard to see. The ST605N uses stop-down metering, requiring you to press the depth of field preview button to activate the meter and take a reading. The button is very conveniently located right where your right middle finger lands on the body, though, so operating it is very easy and natural.

Shutter speed selection on the Fujica is a little funky, going as slow as 1/2 second (why no 1 sec. option?), and down to 1/700 sec. (yeah, no idea here, either).

What does the “N” stand for? Apparently it just means you can see the shutter speed in the viewfinder now. Presumably the plain ST605 lacks this feature.

The big thing to report here, and I will review it in much more depth soon, is that the Fujica ST605N surprised me with just how nice it is to shoot. Honestly.

Polaroid 669

Polaroid 669 film is Type 100 pack film. It fits in exactly the same cameras that you can still put Fujifilm FP100C in today.

It’s peel-apart film in a metal cassette — the sturdy metal that needed the big spring you have to break out of your Land Cameras today, and which could withstand being pressed by them.

What I’ve got expired in 2006, so its been sitting around for about ten years. And not in cold storage, either.

What I’m finding, as I burn this long-expired film in Tim’s Mamiya RB67, is that it’s really persnickety at this age. Overexpose a third of a stop and everything is blown; underexpose a third and you’re left with a navy-blue mess of shadows. Was it always this temperamental?

Also, as you can see below, the corners aren’t always getting enough developer squeezed onto them — probably the Polaroid back needs its rollers cleaned — and this makes peeling apart rather difficult. The gooey brown chemical sludge leaves marks on the white border of the print sometimes, and is generally kind of gross.

Somewhat fortunately, the Polaroid back is masked to 6×6 rather than the full size of the film, so those clipped corners aren’t affecting the actual image area on many shots. Somewhat unfortunately, a 6×6 image on Polaroid pack film looks kind of lousy with those navy-blue bars down both sides.

The images are surprisingly sharp, though. Much sharper than the images from my Polaroid 350. This probably owes more to the stellar optics of the Mamiya-Sekor 90mm f/3.8 lens than anything.

As expected, the color has shifted pretty severely. It could be a lot worse, though — I don’t mind this summery green cast, reminiscent of cross processed slide film.

Kate on Polaroid 669
A snapshot of Kate at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, taken with very expired Polaroid 669 peel-apart film in a Mamiya RB67. (Daniel J. Schneider)